Global Perspectives | Statement | June 25, 2018 6:00 pm

UNHCR Refugee Report Shows Extent of Misunderstandings on Refugee Crisis

by Nadine Bütow

UNHCR’s latest refugee report provides greater clarity with regards to facts on migration that oftentimes remain misunderstood or unrecognized. The report supports the results of the Aurora Humanitarian Index and in that indicates the importance of a new narrative in the public dialogue on migration and the ongoing refugee crisis.

The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR presented its annual Global Trends Report on 20th of June 2018, Global Refugee Day. According to which, the number of people searching refuge from war, violence, and persecution has been rising consecutively for the past 5 years and reached some 68.5 Million in 2017 – a grieving record high. Refugees who are leaving their homes for economic reasons are not included in the statistics. More than half of all refugees are minors, many of which are separated from their families.

Poor Countries Accommodate Most Refugees
Three out of five refugees are internally displaced persons in acute need of protection, most of which come from Syria, Afghanistan, South-Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. Contrary to what is generally believed, those people do not find shelter in high income countries. Low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest burden, so-to-say. Filippo Grandi, chairman of UNCHR, indicates that indeed 85% (9 out of 10) of all refugees live in the latter. Turkey hosts most refugees worldwide, 3.5 million by number, followed by Pakistan, Uganda, and Lebanon. Germany ranks 6th. Proportionally to the size of the own population, countries like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon took in relatively more refugees from neighboring countries.

Refugee Crisis Dominated by Wrong Perceptions
During last year’s Aurora Dialogues in Berlin, experts strongly pinpointed towards the severity of the status quo and to very possible further intensifications. Globally, 700 Million people consider the means of migration to improve current life conditions. Mary Robinson is former UN Commissioner for Human Rights and introduced another important perspective to the debate: climate change. In light of climate change and its geopolitical consequences, she expects more than 200 Million additional refugees until 2050. Collected opinions are brought together in this Aurora-Trailer.

The Aurora Humanitarian Index 2018 (AHI) surveys just under 11.000 participants in 12 countries. The results revealed a substantial discrepancy between perception and actuality. People infer industrialized countries in Europe to be the ones struck by the refugee crisis heftiest, like 54% of respondents in Germany.

A striking 97% of respondents is not (sufficiently) aware of that the majority of refugees is hosted by developing neighbors. Simultaneously, 52% of respondents fear war, and indeed assume war to be the single most pressing humanitarian challenge to mankind. A 10% increase over the last year. War provokes existential fears contributing to a distorted perception of the refugee crisis. Most respondents in all countries are overwhelmed by the number of crises and conflicts. 61% of respondents do not think that it is possible to adress the sum of global humanitarian crises adequately.

Over half the world’s refugees are children. Yet, respondents estimate this number to be 30% ‚only‘.

Only last November, GPI released a study together with the Allensbach-Institut on “The Germans’ Point of View on Development and Africa’s Future“. Dr. Ingrid Hamm summarizes results of the study and the Aurora Humanitarian Index in a short interview.

Both studies and international research reveal a considerable discrepancy between facts and perception alike. Facts must be the foundation to a results-oriented debate, particularly in the delicate topic: refugee crisis.

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